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Transportation Safety Board to investigate numerous rail incidents not reported, says TSB chief

OTTAWA, Ont.– Canada’s Transportation Safety Board has unearthed fresh problems with its rail safety database after finding railway companies did not report more than 100 accidents, minor derailments and incidents, said a CBC report.

A CBC News investigation revealed that CN Rail had not reported more than 1,800 mostly minor accidents and incidents between 2000 and 2007. TSB chief operating officer Jean Laporte confirmed his agency in December began a review of all rail carriers, after a CBC News investigation revealed that CN Rail had not reported more than 1,800 mostly minor accidents and incidents between 2000 and 2007, said the news report. 

The TSB database is used by safety investigators to analyze trends and spot potential risks across the rail system and has become increasingly important given the growing number of shipments of dangerous goods.

While the review is not yet complete, Laporte told the CBC says he is considering whether to sanction CN, CP, and Montreal Maine and Atlantic (involved in the runaway train disaster in Lac Megantic, Que.).

Laporte says the TSB recently received “a large number” of records from CN Rail, Canada’s largest freight carrier, dating back a number of years. Those records include some basic maintenance issues, which CN wasn’t required to report.

However, Laporte says the materials also include some minor incidents or accidents which should have been reported to the TSB.

At this point the TSB said it will perform a detailed review and schedule meetings.

CN spokesman Mark Hallman told CBC News in an emailed statement that he welcomes explicit new rules coming into effect on July 1 that will require companies to notify authorities of all “uncontrolled runaways” and all derailments, even if only a single wheel leaves the track.

In early 2013 the TSB noted CP Rail changed how it was reporting accidents. Laporte says CP stopped notifying the TSB from one central office and began leaving it up to various regional offices to decide when to call in problems.

“CP subsequently conducted a review, and they came back and reported to us an additional 150 data records,” Laporte said. “We’ve reviewed those records and most of those were reportable occurrences, although very minor. They were added to our database.”

CP Rail, in an e-mail to the CBC, called the incidences “one-time … inadvertent reporting gaps” stemming from changes within the company and that problem events have now all been duly reported and reconciled within the TSB’s rail safety database.

The TSB has also combed through the records of MM&A railway, as part of its investigation into the deadly Lac Megantic derailment which killed 47 people. Investigators have determined the company failed to properly report 24 previous problems – including two cases of rail cars rolling away uncontrolled, four main-track derailments and 16 derailments on what is classified as “non-main track,” all of which the TSB notes “had minor consequences,” said the report.